I hope it does give people hope. It's very hard to get published and it's hard if you go in there with this burning ambition. I didn't have that, I was protected by my natural pessimism.Catherine O'Flynn wins this years Costa first novel award for What Was Lost - am account of ghostly goings on in a shopping mall.
(Plan to write about it in a day or two since I've almost finished it ... it's one of the books on my currently-reading pile which has been shoved aside for the you-have-to-read-this- so-you-can write-a-review-or-do an-interview-books. My reading life is complicated! )
Dalya Alberge in the Times reports that O'Flynn weathered rejections from 20 (or is it 14 as the Guardian says ... anyway, an awful lot of) agents before her novel was accepted before it was picked up by Birmingham based small press Tyndall Street Press (whose other publishing success was of course Clare Morrall's Astonishing Splashes of Colour). O'Flynn has worked as a postwoman, in an HMV music store, as a teacher and, briefly, as a mystery shopper.
The judges, which included novelist Joanna Trollope called O'Flynn's novel:
... an extraordinary book ... a formidable novel blending humour and pathos in a cleverly constructed and absorbing mystery.It also made the Booker longlist last year, you will remember.
The best novel award goes to A.L.Kennedy's Day, a novel which (as again you will remember if you've been paying attention to my blog) made several "best books of 2007 lists". The judges described it as:
... a masterpiece ...and book makers William Hill announced 2-1 odds on it winning the main prize, to be announced on 22 January.
The winners in the other categories are:
Biography - Simon Sebag Montefiore for Young StalinThe Times includes a disturbing aside about book sales in the UK:
Poetry - Jean Sprackland for Tilt
Children - Ann Kelley for The Bower Bird
Of 200,000 books sold last year, 190,000 sold fewer than 3,500 copies. More damning still, of 85,933 new books published, as many as 58,325 sold an average of just 18 copies.Food for thought: the best selling Malaysian titles, in comparison, have done very well indeed.
Further food for thought: if you want to write, don't give up the day job!
Even further food for thought: if at first your manuscript gets rejected, keep on going! (Although you may want to take this advice to heart!)
The Costa website is here but news of the 2008 shortlist is not up yet.